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85-year-old forest fire watcher in his 33rd season

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DOUGLAS COUNTY, Colo. -- Life is a lot like a mountain trail.  Sometimes, most times, you're never quite sure just where it will lead.

Such was the case for Billy Gene Ellis, the man on the mountain. From bill collector to handyman to chief of police in Victor, Ellis has just about done it all.


In 1984, Ellis and his wife Margaret took a job at the trail's end. On top of the world.

Ellis is a National Forest Service fire watcher. His office is on top of a mountain.

"It is my office. This is where I spend my days, right here," he said.

At the summit of Devil's Head Peak in the Pike National Forest in Douglas County,.

The mountains are as familiar to Ellis as family. And they should be. He's been glassing, gazing and peering into the forest, looking for that telltale sign of fire: Smoke.

Margaret Ellis has happily been with him the whole time. During the summer months at Devil's Head, they live in a small log cabin at the base of the peak.

While Billy heads up the stairs every morning, Margaret spends her days talking with some of the 30,000 visitors who come to the area every season.

Billy is not in a hurry to retire. It's just not a stop on his trail. In the end, he just wants to be known as a man who was dedicated to the Forest Service.

And he has definitely accomplished that goal.